TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

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Andrew M
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TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#1 Post by Andrew M » November 18th, 2019, 6:45 pm

Just returned from 10 days in France, centered around 3 days each of tasting in Bordeaux and Champagne. Definitely an (over)indulgent vacation, thought some might be interested in TNs and other highlights.

Memorable TNs (for better or worse):

2015/16 Yquem - Couldn't wipe the sh*t-eating grin off my face after the first sip of the '16, my first taste of Yquem. By a mile the longest finish of any wine I'd ever tasted. Incredible balance and complexity, no overbearing sweetness or viscosity, and lots of tropical fruit (pineapple?). The 2015 is the more hyped wine and they think it's shutting down a bit, I suppose I agree. Not giving up much on the nose. Little fruit on the palate, all honey, butter, brown sugar. So much depth though, feels like there is greatness lurking within. Considering buying a 375 at Calvert Woodley next chance I get. The flight included the 2014 which wasn't as memorable.

2000/03/05 Léoville Poyferré - Maybe I just don't love the style at this age? For the $250+ these vintages were fetching around Paris and CDG, I'm not a buyer. I enjoyed the 2000, a little lighter than expected, but nice complexity. 2003 felt unbalanced and a little overripe. The 2005 isn't close to ready, great aromas but couldn't coax much flavor out of it. Bottle was opened earlier that morning. As a benchmark, an 89 Pichon Comtesse and 89 Beychevelle opened last month were both absolutely excellent (89 Beychevelle a great value at auction!!) and I just didn't see these bottles trending that way. Maybe too early to say.

2009 Giscours - Really nice, if not a small step down from the 2009 Brane Cantenac drank at lunch. Very smooth, perfume-y aromas, a very pleasurable wine. A classic Margaux to me, Henri Challeau commented it is a more masculine style. Took home 375s of the 09 and 10.

2004 Lafite - First Lafite. Tasted at the Chateau. Incredible blend of aromas, red fruit and a little spice. Palate was somewhat closed, more earth and cigar box than fruit, but the finish was still there as we were driving off the property 20 minutes later. Would be interesting to see how this is doing in 10 years minimum. Doesn't make me want to run out and buy Lafite at current prices but am grateful for the experience

2017 Pichon Comtesse & Comtesse Reserve - Wasn't expecting to see any 17s on this trip, but a very pleasant surprise. PCL commented how proximity to the river shielded them from some of the challenges of the vintage. Unlike the 16 Comtesse Reserve (which is a very good wine but one to bury for 5 years minimum), the 17 is open for business now. Soft tannins, sweet red fruit, probably very welcoming to the non-AFWE and a good value. The 17 Pichon Comtesse was the most pleasant surprise of the trip. Loved this - mesmerizing aromas, super silky tannin, black cherry flavors. Would never have guessed Pauillac blind, and this is probably not every BDX lover's favorite style, but it's a beautiful and inviting wine. Excellent value at $100 in the US? Hard to buy over the 16/18 vintages, but I'd love to have a couple of these in my cellar and they'll be ready in 5-10 years maximum.

2017 Pontet Canet - Stark contrast to the Pichon Comtesse - all earth, some black fruit, great depth and coplexity. Tannins are soft and very sweet. Not quite as pleasurable now - not that it's supposed to be - but will probably be a beautiful wine in ~10 years.

2018 Langoa/Leoville Barton - Langoa exceeded expectations. Good value. Very strong and assertive wine, not as much oak influence. More red-fruited than the Leoville, not as much depth and complexity either but this would be interesting to follow. The Leoville had very nice aromas, smells like classic Saint-Julien. More challenging on the palate. Lots of oak now, tasted a little bit extracted, massively dense compared to other wines tasted over the course of the day.

NV Vouette et Sorbee Fidéle Extra Brut Blanc de Noirs - I'd read that some V&S cuvées need hours to open up and possibly a decant. They weren't kidding. All kinds of stink on the nose after opening, I get body odor and rubbing alcohol followed by a cherry and light cream finish. A little gritty texture. Less acidic than I was expecting. Way better on day 2, all cherry and cream, no funk, still very very light. Probably has the guts to age well but there's a lot of champagne in this price range so I don't know if I need to find out for myself.

Paul Bara - Tasted Extra Brut, Brut, Rose, Millesime 2012, Special Club 2012. Loved this lineup and a very nice visit overall. I could drink the Extra Brut every day, brings freshness but supple fruit balanced by the low dosage. Wife preferred the brut. SC12 was just awesome, didn't reach the highs of the 08 for me, but I was happy to walk out with the first SC12 ever sold after they manually foiled the bottle! Fingers crossed Kermit Lynch doesn't go crazy with prices for the 2008 Comtesse Marie de France which is due in a few months. Picked up an 06 at a great price for an eventual comparison.

Marc Hebrart - Like Paul Bara or maybe Gimonnet, some of these stalwart Special Club producers aren't as en vogue in Champagne today but are doing awesome things. And the QPR absolutely can't be beat. The Hebrart Mes Favorites, Noces de Craie, Special Club, and Rive Droite are all excellent. Rive Droite is a little polarizing because of the vinification in oak barrels, but I didn't see this reflected much in the flavor profile as I did the creamy texture. My COTD and was happy to take home a 2012.

2006 Billecart Salmon Cuvée Nicolas Francois - Heavy malo, all cream, like drinking yogurt champagne. Some pleasure but certainly not for everyone and not sure how it will age. Wife loved it. The Elizabeth Salmon rose and Cuvee Louis BdB were not memorable.

2008 Vilmart Cœur de Cuvée - Incredibly long finish, creamy texture, not too rich to me, but still seems pretty closed right now. Searing acidity, probably not worth drinking now. Conflicting feelings about this - not sure about the QPR, there are a lot of great options in this price range and some of those other options are just more interesting to me. But I think I preferred it to Dom 08 tasted last month.

2013 Vilmart Grand Cellier d'Or - Stood out among the lineup of 6 cuvées tasted at the house. Needs food. Crisp, nice acidity, citrus, nice texture. Really enjoyed this.

Larmandier-Bernier - Really nice visit, tour and tasting led by Arthur Larmandier. Highly recommend to anyone. Longitude and 2012 Les Chemins d'Avize stood out to me. Took home one of each and was pleased to see CdA12 still available at Envoyer for the same price. Worth it - a "wow" wine for a special occasion.

Some miscellaneous thughts...

BDX tasting fees - Interesting contrast here. Visited Lafite, Pichon Lalande, Leoville Barton, Pontet Contet for $0. All wonderful and welcoming. Visited Giscours, Lascombes, and SHL (Sunday and bank holiday openings) for $120pp? A great experience doesn't need to cost much...

BDX 18 - For all that's been written about the unevenness of the vintage, I was constantly being told about how 18 is a great vintage that will outshine 16. At the same time, at Pichon Comtesse they are saying it's a great wine, but tastes nothing like Pichon Comtesse? Left me feeling uncertain. Wasn't feeling more comfortable after tasting the Leoville Barton barrel sample.

BDX 17 - Another one of those forgotten vintages... But if you're inclined, I would take a flyer on a few of these. Atypical, but ready far earlier than your 16s, and whatever's being released now can probably be had at a good value.

Champagne Visits - 2020 should be a great time to visit Champagne. All the big house 2008s will be out and most growers will be into 12/13 and some 15. I still saw a lot of 10/11 last week and while they were fine, I felt no need to load up... I think Champagne purchased in UK or FR is one of the absolute best values in wine right now. These are fabulous, complex wines that will develop and appreciate. I would visit maybe one major house, at most, but there's so much exciting wine being made outside of them at incredible QBRs. Good vintage Special Club in the $30-40 range is a steal. Remy Massin Millesime 2008 for $25. Multiple grower tête de cuvées for $60-70.

Customs - Lot of talk about tariffs in this forum... I brought 14 bottles of Champagne back in 2 suitcases with zero problems. Global Entry at IAD. Not sure I would have even had the opportunity to declare anything if I'd wanted to. If you can even find some of these wines in the US , you're saving enough to pay for a plane ticket. Wish I'd bought more but ran out of bubble wrap.
M @ k $ ! m ø v ! ç h

Subu Ramachandran
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Re: TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#2 Post by Subu Ramachandran » November 19th, 2019, 5:58 am

Andrew M wrote:
November 18th, 2019, 6:45 pm

Champagne Visits - 2020 should be a great time to visit Champagne. All the big house 2008s will be out and most growers will be into 12/13 and some 15. I still saw a lot of 10/11 last week and while they were fine, I felt no need to load up... I think Champagne purchased in UK or FR is one of the absolute best values in wine right now. These are fabulous, complex wines that will develop and appreciate. I would visit maybe one major house, at most, but there's so much exciting wine being made outside of them at incredible QBRs. Good vintage Special Club in the $30-40 range is a steal. Remy Massin Millesime 2008 for $25. Multiple grower tête de cuvées for $60-70.
Great notes Andrew on the champagne's. On V&S, do you find only the Fidele tight or does it extend across the range? I hear you on Hebrart, Larmandier-Bernier. Should have bought more years back when they were a steal. Now some of the special club wines in US cost well over $80!

Joel Pelote
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Re: TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#3 Post by Joel Pelote » November 19th, 2019, 6:05 am

Thanks for the insights and great notes! For BDX did you have to make appointments ahead of time?

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Gus Siokis
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Re: TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#4 Post by Gus Siokis » November 19th, 2019, 6:30 am

Andrew: Did you do all the booking arrangements or did you use a guide?
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Howard Cooper
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Re: TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#5 Post by Howard Cooper » November 19th, 2019, 7:09 am

Thanks for the notes. Great visit. It is really thrilling to visit Yquem, isn't it?
Howard

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Jim Stewart
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Re: TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#6 Post by Jim Stewart » November 19th, 2019, 8:34 am

Great notes and comments, Andrew. And you now have me thinking about a trip to Champagne. [cheers.gif] [wow.gif]
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Re: TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#7 Post by Neal.Mollen » November 19th, 2019, 10:13 am

Thanks for the very helpful notes. Sounds like you had a fantastic time!
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Re: TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#8 Post by julianseersmartin » November 19th, 2019, 10:43 am

Was that Fidele tasted at VS? Assuming probably not given you had leftovers. It sounds faulty to me. Fidele is normally very forward.

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Re: TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#9 Post by terrance.c » November 19th, 2019, 4:46 pm

Thanks for the helpful notes. I'm heading there in a few weeks, so it's very informative.
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Bob Watt
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Re: TN & Trip Report - BDX, Champagne

#10 Post by Bob Watt » November 20th, 2019, 7:22 pm

Thank you for the notes, sounds like s great trip. 😀 What day did you come back into the US? I believe the tarrifs kicked in starting 10/15. Cheers.
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